THE WITCH: PART 2 [2022]

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Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , , ,

AKA MANYEO 2, THE WITCH PART 2: THE OTHER ONE

KOREA

AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS: NOW, from SIGNATURE ENTERTAINMENT

RUNNING TIME: 137 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera

The Witch Part 2

Years ago, a teenage girl is abducted when the bus she’s on is gassed, hijacked and hurled off a cliff. When she awakes she’s visited by Dr. Baek and her twin who know that she’s pregnant with twins and say that her pregnancy will be important. In the present day, a girl nicknamed Ark 1, who seems to have some superpowers, escapes from a secret laboratory after killing all soldiers and scientists there and wounding Jo-Hyeon, a tough and skilled agent. She’s taken in by Kyung-Hee and her brother Dae-Gil, but there’s little time for peace because a gangster named Yong-Doo is after the land and won’t take no for an answer, while Jo-Hyeon, plus Jang the head of the institute, is back on Ark 1’s trail….

So in 2017’s The Witch we eventually learnt that Ja-yoon was actually a creation of Dr. Baek’s, genetically modified to have superpowers, and that she never lost her memory and had always known what she was. She deliberately showed off some of her skill during her audition to sing on TV to attract the attention of Baek so she could get cured of her disease. She finds Baek and obtains the cure, thena  mysterious woman, whose face is covered in scars, approaches Ja-yoon but Ja-yoon threatens to kill her if she touches her and the screen goes to black. Well, it was a rather good final act, presenting some decent turns in the story which, even if not everything probably came as much of a surprise, made us re-access what we’d been watching without going crazy, and the last scene was nicely mysterious and helped bait our appetites for the sequel, even though The Witch was a film which only partly seemed to work, a melding of a lot of ideas and concerns from well known American movies and series including Hanna, The Fury, X-Men and The Gifted which seemed to have little genuine Korean flavour yet which still involved through its good character writing and performing, even though it only properly got into the action in the last thirty minutes. Nonetheless the idea that it was intended as the first installment of a trilogy was enticing. The more I thought about it, The Witch [how many films do we now have that are called that?] really did seem like a first in a small series, introducing us to a world that follow-ups would expand on, choosing to remain vague about some things that we’d no doubt get the answers to next time. And of course we really wanted to see the fascinating Ja-yoon return, didn’t we?

Well part two [minus The Other One part of its original title] is now here. Some of the qualities of part one are retained, but too much of it ends up being retained. Rather than continuing to have Ja-yoon as the main focus, writer and director Park Hoon-jung decided to tell the story of a similar girl, trying to vary the beats enough so that it doesn’t quite seem like a remake, and does allow Ja-yoon to return near the end [I decided to reveal this seeing as a quick look down the credits would see that the excellent Kim Da-mi returns in the role she previously made so much of], but he doesn’t deepen the surrounding stuff much, and actually presents a simpler film than the previous one, and one that frustrates because we really want to learn, for example, why these girls are being created, what’s exactly going on in these labs. I suppose Park is saving all this for part three, but one can’t help but feel let down, and some aspects of part two feel a bit pointless, such as its land grabbing subplot. Okay, it does admittedly lead to some very good scenes, but it also adds almost nothing to the overall plot and feels like it’s diverting attention from the stuff we really want to know about. It’s really very unsatisfying as a second part, though effort has been clearly made to make it more appealing film to look at and the action and special effects are probably a little better, even if once again there aren’t really a lot of thrills to be had even if tension is usually still just about bubbling away in the background, even in scenes that feature no real menace at all, much time again being spent on character relationships and its heroine trying to have a normal life. However, there’s a bit less of an emotional centre. In Subversion, the relationship between Ja-yoon and her friend Myung-Hee added genuine sweetness; here there’s somewhat less warmth, something that can maybe be partly put down the acting which isn’t always as strong as before, though curiously the dimension between the two main villains comes off the best in terms of involvement.

A close-up of the bloodied face of a young girl begins the rather arresting opening, which gives us all sorts of sounds on the soundtrack while a voice calls to the girl, telling her to “come to mummy”. A dog breaks loose from its chain and charges at her, then she awakes from what was a flashback on the school bus, where she prefers to listen to her own music on a cassette player rather than join in the singing that everyone else is seriously getting involved in. After some annoyance from a friend who keeps on asking her “Did you sleep with Jo”?, and some oddly placed text saying A VERY LONG TIME AGO [later on we get SOMEWHERE IN CENTRAL ASIA], the bus takes a wrong turn, gas is thrown in causing everyone inside the vehicle to lose consciousness, and a masked man enters to bash down a few of the kids not knocked out and carry off the girl who wakes up on a stretcher, seeing that the bus incident was faked to look like an accident. Inside this secret laboratory, Dr. Baek and her twin tells her that her “Twins will have more siblings, we’ll make it happen”. And now we get the main titles, yet another sequence of quick images of the usual stuff; scientific experiments, passport photographs, drawings of animals, etc. Back to the lab and just outside it a woman is smoking a cigarette before entering where something bad has happened, though we don’t really know what yet and when we return to this situation it’s after the first violent encounter between Ark 1 and our main villain Jo-Hyeon; Park sure likes to make us wait for the action even when stuff has clearly happened. Ark 1 flees, her feet leaving bloody prints in the snow, and is picked up by some nasty guys in a car in which Kyung-Hee is being held and is hit; Jo-Hyeon kills the men except for one and again we barely see it. Park is a bit of a tease, which is fine up to a point, but come on now, this is a part two, is subtlety really something we need so much?

Kyung-Hee and her uncle are refusing to give up ownership of her house and land to the nasty Yong-Doo who’s already killed her father. Her uncle performs surgery on Ark 1 to remove all the experimental devices from her skin and Kyung-Hee takes the girl with her to her house, where she lives with her brother, Dae-Gil. Things aren’t that great between the two siblings at first because sister went away for a while after father got murdered, but Dae-Gil soon forms a bond with Ark 1 [“Could she be an alien”? “Shall we start a YouTube channel”?] who rather likes things like trashy TV and supermarkets where she stuffs herself with sweets. There’s undeniably some cuteness here, but Park Eun-bin,and You-Bin Sung, while individually pretty good, don’t have the chemistry together that Kim Da-mi  and  Ko Min-shi had in Subversion, though of course it’s also quite possible that Park was deliberately going for a edgier or colder approach. Meanwhile, Dr. Baek receives a visit from Jang, the head of the secret institute, and they talk about events from the last film as well as things in this one, then Jo-Hyeon and her South African companion are called in to speak with Baek, who offers them a device that can track Ark 1. Over half the film though is set in and around Kyung-Hee’s abode which is visited by a seemingly endless assortment of bad guys from three different factions, and eventuallu Goo Ja-yoon, though she seems like a colder character here, even seems to let two innocent people die. This doesn’t give to Kim much of a chance to really revisit her character, which is disappointing to say the least, though I’m sure she’ll show up again in the final chapter. The last act has tragedy though fewer plot turns than before; however there’s one twist which some of you may have predicted way, way before due to a very early scene which made things so obvious to me that I thought that I was being led down the garden path. But it sets things up nicely for the tale to continue; oh hang on, I said something to that effect last time, didn’t I?

After teasing us for a considerable amount of time, the first proper action sequence is when Yong-Doo and his men begin to beat up Kyung-Hee and Dae-Gil; it’s one of those scenes where you’re almost praying for deliverance, especially as it’s far less enjoyable seeing women and children being hit than it is men. Ark 1’s appearance is a real doozy. Having most of the subsequent mayhem happen in the same place gives the proceedings a stagy feel  but it’s also rather nice in a way;  the fighting and the gunplay is well staged anyway and in the finale well integrated into fireworks happening near by, while the visual effects showing the superpowers are rather good seeing as this is still a rather low budget film in contrast with most Hollywood productions, though in a way having so many characters have such powers cheapens things a bit and takes things even closer to generic superhero stuff, even though there are several deaths that are both memorable and grisly. The blood again flows quite freely though a potentially nasty torture scene is cut away from before it gets too bad. The thrill highlight is probably a sword duel where the combatants end up sliding down a huge sign; the choreography is rather good though it could have been longer, something can be said elsewhere, though the extreme brevity of one particular confrontation which we’re really looking forward to must surely be meant as a joke? Intended humour is certainly present elsewhere, most notably when Jo-Hyeon and her unnamed South African assistant are bickering away about things like Jo-Hyeon’s frequent swearing; it’s not really all that funny but Sep Eun-soo and  Justin John Harvey are great together and bring some genuine humanity. Then there’s Jo Min-su as Baek, who’s still able to make us not hate a person who’s doing really awful things in the name of – well we don’t know yet but it’s got to be more than just science – but Baek isn’t developed in any way.

This is the main problem with this film; it just doesn’t do enough in terms of it being the second one of three, even if it certainly has its merits – I haven’t yet mentioned the cinematography of Young-Ho-Kim which has some nice use of colour tones here and there, and has some especially strong night work. But two films up and neither of them coming off particularly great overall doesn’t bode very well for the third. Yet I’ll still be there for it, nonetheless.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

 

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About Dr Lenera 1980 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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